The Left Fork, aka The Subway, is one of the most beautiful places you’ll ever get to see in Zion National Park
..and there are two ways to get to this popular slot canyon. One is called ‘from the bottom’, where you hike in and then hike back out the same way, which we did; the other one is called ‘top-down’ which involves some canyoneering skills, where you have to rappel down some ropes, swim through canyon pools, and hike back out the canyon. The latter sounds so much more technical and exciting, but hiking-in gave us just the right amount of challenge we needed for that day, since it was the last day of our 8-Day Mighty 5 Trip. (We were completely exhausted!)
If you have plans of visiting Zion’s Subway soon, here are some things you should take note of:
It is required to have a permit to hike the Subway. They only allow 80 people to hike here each day, and reservations are made through an online lottery. You have the option to apply 3 months in advance, as well as 2-7 days before your trip date. In some cases people cancel their trip, so then you can take your chances on walk-in permits which usually take place a day before your target trip date. Each application is $5, and you are able to pick 3 prioritized dates.
Once you’ve applied for the advance lottery, you will have to wait for the results, which are usually sent out via email on the 5th day of the following month. If you are granted a permit, you can pick it up and pay for the permit fee a day before or the day of your trip. Fees range from $15-25, depending on how many you have in your group.
THE THINGS YOU NEED TO BRING
It will be a full day of hiking through various types of terrain in this trail, so here are a couple of things you should bring.
For shoes, you will need good hiking shoes, the ones that have good grip. You will also be walking through water, so waterproof ones are perfect. If your hiking shoes are not waterproof, you can simply bring with you a pair of waterproof sandals, and use it when needed.
For clothes, I recommend pieces that will dry easily. Wear a bathing suit if you have to. Don’t forget to bring a dry set of clothes, because I assure you that you are going to want to take a dip in the natural pools!
For food, pack lots of heavy snacks. Sandwiches are great, especially if you know you’ll need to have lunch along the trail. Bring lots of water. It is going to be a long hike, so 3L or more will do.
Last but not least, a dry sack to keep all your things from getting soaked.
Oh, and don’t forget to bring your permit!
I highly suggest starting your hike very early, because it can take about 5-9 hours to complete. From Zion National Park, head up the Kolob Terrace Road and after about 8.2 miles, look for the parking lot for the Left Fork Trailhead. Be sure to place your permit in your car’s dashboard!
From the parking lot, simply follow the trail until it leads you to the cliffside of the canyon. This will eventually turn into descending switchbacks which will bring you to the bottom of the canyon. Be careful, the trail has a lot of loose rocks, and it is very easy to slip. Grippy shoes will help a lot! Just keep going down until you reach the streambed, and once you do, follow the water upstream. You will switch between walking through the water, hopping over boulders, and walking through a dirt trail. Eventually, you will see beautiful cascading waterfalls on the trail. This was one of my favorite parts of the hike! It tends to be very slippery while hiking up these waterfalls, so watch your step!
After the falls, you will soon reach the entrance to the Subway. Make your way up and enjoy the amazing slot canyon formation and the natural pools. Take a dip! It’s the perfect way to cool off, especially during the summer when the heat is very intense. Once done, you can hike back out the same way.
Quick Tip! Some people miss the trail that leads up the canyon to get back to the car, so be sure to keep an eye out for that. It helps to look back and take a photo of the view, once you’ve reached the bottom of the canyon (earlier in the hike), so you have something to help you recall where it is or what it should look like.
NEED TO KNOW:
Trail Name: Left Fork Trail/The Subway (Non-Technical Hike)
Miles: 6.5 miles
Elevation Change: 1,000 feet
Such an unreal place, I can’t wait to go back! Definitely looking forward to trying out the Top-Down Route next time!
Have you done the Top-Down Route before? Would love to hear any tips you may have!